Fundraising a Vision

Henri Nouwen was once asked the question of why he never spoke about fundraising and if he might consider doing so for a group of people who were interested.  Henri, surprised and also excited by this prospect, obliged.  What started as an impromptu speech and lecture to a small group of individuals has now been transformed into a book: The Spirituality of Fundraising.

This small book is perhaps the best book ever written with a theological backbone for the meaning of fundraising. And as a campus minister, I believe my job really is about fundraising.  We can talk for a long time about why of why not this should or should not be the case, but I can leave that to other posts.  What I saw though in Nouwen’s text is a masterful articulation of how sacred and yet how important it is that we get used to asking for people share their finances with us.  The whole understanding comes down to vision.

If we have a vision to share, we can take that vision to people who can financially support that vision.  And in so doing, we invite them to enter into that vision with us, partnering to bear the load and work that is required that this dream might become reality.  Almost every day, I’m working with people to cast a vision for campus ministry, and while I have always known the church to be supportive financially for these ministries, the future looks more likely to include a professional fundraising component than ever before.  The future really does lie in our ability to figure out how to cast a vision and share in it with others.

Nouwen though doesn’t stop at this approach, but heads directly into the heart of the matter by exploring our relationships with money.  If we are a people who are concerned with our wealth, maybe for a feeling of security, or maybe for a feeling of financial freedom, we all begin to realize that our ability to ask of others is hindered. But when we release ourselves from that psychological trap, giving over to the understanding that money never belonged to us and that giving it up is simply to follow the way that God calls us into, we can then feel free to walk with other individuals who would give of their financial freedoms.  It we ourselves don’t make the first step, we can not expect others to do the same.  But when we do, we open the gates to something more beautiful that then flowers into the communities we so greatly hope would exist.

I believe as a campus minister, executive director, and ultimately a professional fundraiser, campus ministry actually becomes somewhat more easy because it allows and forces us to share with others the vision.  We can not hide from the fact that we have to communicate with others who might give, or anyone for that matter.  Instead, we have to be able to share this idea, this hope and dream because then it becomes others’ dreams as well and we walk together.

So what do you do to motivate your donors, to invite them to be givers and commitments to this campus ministry you operate.  How might we come up with new ideas.  Please share your thoughts and ideas on these topics.

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